The Cadiz Expedition, 1596

Alan Haynes describes a gallant mercantile endeavour in Tudor relations with Spain.

The defeat of the Armada in 1588 did not put an end to rumours of invading forces, and for the next decade there was a profound sense of unease in England. Sir Walter Ralegh warned Cecil and the Privy Council in November 1595 that Spain was preparing an invasion fleet of sixty ships for a landing in Ireland to support the rebellious Earl of Tyrone.

To forestall another crisis, Elizabeth agreed in March 1596 that a full-scale naval and military operation should be launched against Spain, and the city of Cadiz was chosen. Ralegh particularly favoured Cadiz since its name would remind the country of Drake’s devastation of the great fleet in 1587. He also hoped to prevent Spanish reinforcements from being sent to Guiana where native resistance would be small.

He was strongly supported by the renegade Spaniard, Antonio Perez, who urged that Cadiz be attacked since it was, in his own phrase, a ‘city at once rich, vulnerable and strategic’. As Spain’s largest and richest port, some of the financial burden of creating the attacking force might be offset by looting it on a vast scale.

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